Mono County Health Director Ann Gimpel brought the Mono County Board of Supervisors up to speed on the state of California’s Mental Health Services Act funding at its regular meeting Tuesday. Conclusion: we can use a few more millionaires.
The act, which places a 1% tax on millionaires, may see a reduction in revenues, as the state sees a similar decline in those making a million bucks or more.
Gimpel said that typically the state process about 25,000-30,000 tax returns in that bracket, though the exact amount of the tax isn’t typically known until those returns are filed.
With the downturn in the economy, she estimates there may be fewer millionaires filing in 2009-2010, some of which may have left the state for better tax environs. This, she said, may have an effect on the department’s 2011-2012 budget, but at the moment Gimpel’s only concerned, not alarmed.
“We have $500,000 in reserves, plus another $300,000 in a separate account that’s not subject to return or reversion. With careful management we should be okay, provided the downturn doesn’t last too long,” Gimpel said.
One mitigating factor she’s watching is Prop 1E, a measure on the state’s May 19 special election ballot. Prop 1E is an attempt to free up money for the state’s budget woes by shifting $227 million in voter-approved funding from Prop 63 (passed in 2004) for two years to pay for the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program, a low-income child development program that would otherwise be paid for out of the state’s general fund.
That fund has been decreasing annually for the past few years. As a result, locally one children’s program and one program for the homeless have been eliminated.
“The state makes getting funding a long and arduous process,” Gimpel said, and added she spends more than one-third of her work week writing plans to submit for funding. One bright spot: the cap from the fed on Medi-Cal has actually increased to keep up with increased caseload and cost growth. Still, it may be 3-5 years (probably no sooner than 2014-2015) before the state’s budget returns to the $1.3 billion levels needed to support her 2009-2010 plan’s estimates.
In other news, Supervisors also gave their okay to applicants Stacey and Mark Westerlund to use Bridgeport Cemetery land to access and service a kennel they plan to operate on adjacent property.
The Mono Planning Commission granted a use permit to the Westerlunds last week.
The alternative to using the road in question is utilizing another dirt path, which would require 300 feet of additional paving. The use permit granted has several constraints agreed to by the applicants, including number of vehicles allowed (1) and transportation requirements for the dogs. The Westerlunds say they plan to raise at most 8 dogs, and the kennel facility is at least 200 yards from any existing grave site.
County Counsel Marshall Rudolph said he’s working with the Westerlunds to finalize the license agreement’s language, but since there are no easements or other changes involved, he said there are no other legal issues.
Defeated Lands bill reincarnated
In a vote on March 11, the U.S. House of Representatives defeated the S.22 Omnibus Lands Bill, which would set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness. The bill was the victim of a renewed Republican push to allow concealed, loaded weapons in national parks.
S.22 is, however, far from dead legislation. The bill was reintroduced as part of H.R. 146, the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act, and has regained its momentum.
A majority of House members supported the wilderness bill, but since it was voted on under “suspension of House rules,” the measure required a two-thirds vote, instead of the usual majority to pass. The vote was 282-144 in favor, two short of the number required for approval.
The Senate passed the original bill on Jan. 15. Heralded as one of the largest expansions of wilderness protection in 25 years, the 1,200-page S.22, a collection of roughly 170 individual bills, would confer the government’s highest level of protection on land ranging from California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range to Oregon’s Mount Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.
Supporters said the bill was voted on under a special rule, which severely restricts amendments, because majority Democrats were afraid that Republicans would introduce an amendment allowing guns in parks.
Not everyone saw the House’s original defeat of the bill as a bad thing. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the defeated bill would have cost up to $10 billion and blocked oil and gas development on millions of acres of federal property
Supporters, Democrats in particular, countered that S.22 was one of the most useful conservation measures ever debated in Congress. “It’s important to know that our national parks are still wild and scenic, our national battlefields are still sacred and our national rivers are still pristine,” said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), House Natural Resources Committee chairman.
Locally, Friends of the Inyo Executive Director Paul McFarland, a fervent supporter of S.22, wan’t daunted. “The defeat was more procedural in nature,” McFarland told The Sheet. “We fully expect Congress to pass it and have it on President Obama’s desk for signature by Easter.” And that scenario appears to be playing out.
Early Thursday, the Senate passed the new incarnation of the bill 77-20. The House is expected to take up the bill in the next week or so.